Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Human Rights
GR-H(2005)CB7 7 November 20051
Meeting of 25 October 2005
The Ministers’ Deputies’ Rapporteur Group on Human Rights (GR-H) met on 25 October 2005 with Ambassador C. Yerocostopoulos, Permanent Representative of Greece in the chair. The following items were discussed in the light of Notes on the Agenda GR-H(2005)19:
05/42 Examination of the draft programme of activities for 2006 in the field of human rights
The Secretariat (Director General of Human Rights) took the floor to inform the GR-H of the main lines of the activities proposed in the human rights sphere for 2006 and in particular the way in which it was suggested to incorporate the priorities laid down by the Summit Action Plan. Before doing so, he wished to draw attention to a specific feature of DG II: he had done so regularly in recent years, but this would be the last opportunity. DG II is distinguished by the preponderance of supervisory mechanisms under its responsibility. Each of these mechanisms is a de facto priority and the volume of work they represent cannot be planned. The result is a negative impact on the other activities, and the excessive reliance on voluntary contributions and seconded staff.
Another consequence is the atrophy of intergovernmental work which has always underlain the Council of Europe’s ability to react swiftly and appropriately. Vigilance was needed to ensure that this faculty was not lost, to the detriment of the credibility of the Organisation’s action.
The draft programme had been prepared taking into account observations made in the last programme debate, including those made by the Budget Committee, and the debate on the evaluation of the 2005 Programme. The priorities of the Summit had been incorporated, as well as the reductions called for in order to finance the Action Plan, which had brought about a reduction in general expenses.
The application of these criteria had not in fact given rise to major changes because the priorities already coincide with the mechanisms and the activities under way: beside the Action plan, the major priorities were continued action on Court reform and the follow-up to the Kyiv Conference of Ministers responsible for the Media.
An effort had been made to render the performance indicators much more precise than the previous year: this had been of particular concern with regard to the supervisory mechanisms.
Closing, the Director General emphasised the importance of continuous examination of working methods, in both the supervisory and intergovernmental sectors, of maintaining and strengthening contacts with governments and continuous follow-up.
In the debate, the following points were made: the presentation of the Programme document was not always easy to follow and one delegation noted that the cost of the activities of the CDDH was apparently zero. The Director General subsequently explained that this was because the entire cost of the CDDH had been shared between the relevant projects.
Another delegation wondered about the increasing impact on the Execution Department of the constant improvement in the Court’s throughput. Another delegation, supported by several others, agreed with the Director General about the danger of allowing intergovernmental activity in the human rights area to become marginalised and lose its effectiveness and value.
A delegation proposed that, in activity S32006/DG2/920, the word “Revised” should be deleted from the title as its authorities, whilst being quite confident of the quality of their social offer, have doubts concerning ratification of the Revised Social Charter. It also questioned the usefulness of activity S3 2005/DG2/444 “Promoting ratifications of Protocol No. 12” as his authorities had doubts concerning the usefulness of the Protocol.
Another delegation announced that, in the framework of the priorities of the next Presidency, a substantial event concerning minority rights would be held in Romania in the Spring of 2006, and asked that the Programme should include the authorisation of a meeting of DH-MIN outside Strasbourg in association with this event.
Another delegation made proposals which are reproduced in Appendix I to the present synopsis.
A further delegation drew attention to the remarks it had already made in writing concerning the Social Charter and the need to reconsider the collective complaints system which was too costly.
Finally, another delegation, whilst acknowledging the essential nature of the reform of the institutions of the Human Rights Convention, drew attention to the real danger that this project should become an all-embracing obsession to the exclusion of other genuine priorities.
Replying to the points made, the Director General agreed that despite the obvious importance of the reform, the Council of Europe must not be taken hostage by the project, nor must the requirements of the Convention take up resources to the detriment of other important activities including, as some delegations had mentioned, the activities required in the context of an ongoing follow-up related not least to problems identified in judgments.
On the question of execution and the volume of judgments, he noted that both the Execution Department and the Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers were frustrated by the fact that, due to the volume of judgments, they could not work with the degree of rigour they would prefer to apply in the circumstances. Reinforcement must be applied in the first instance to absorbing a certain backlog. With regard to seconded staff, this could be welcomed, but it should be borne in mind that a period of training was needed before new staff, however experienced, became fully operational. If staff are seconded for relatively short periods, it may be doubted whether the investment is justified.
The Director General appealed to delegations to avoid thinking in terms of “categories” of human rights: more often than not, such divisions were purely theoretical and of negative practical value.
With regard to the specific proposal to delete the word “revised”, this could be done, but as regards the project concerning Protocol No. 12, since the cost was very modest and the project consisted only of publishing the proceedings of a seminar which had already taken place, it would seem wasteful to abandon it.
Comments in writing received from one delegation are contained in Appendix I to the present synopsis.
05/40 Freedom of the press and the working conditions of journalists in conflict zones – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1702 (2005) – Draft reply
The Group examined the draft reply contained in document GR-H(2005)18 and agreed to transmit it to the Deputies for adoption without discussion at their 945th meeting (9 November 2005).
05/41 Current situation in Kosovo – Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1708 (2005) –
The Group examined the text agreed by the GREDS as contained in document CM/AS(2005)Rec1708 prov as well as a couple of proposals made by the Secretariat for updating the text in the light of the latest developments within the United Nations. It agreed on the text contained in document CM/AS(2005)Rec1708 prov 2, which it transmitted to the GREDS’ meeting on 26 October 2005 for a final approval before submission to the Deputies for adoption.
05/38 Progress Report - Reform of the European Convention on Human Rights – Declaration of the Committee of Ministers “Ensuring the effectiveness of the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights at national and European levels”
The Secretariat (Director of Directorate 1, DGII), recalled the decisions taken by the Deputies in this context at their 938th meeting (21 September 2005, item 4.1), in particular that they had urged all member states which had not yet done so to submit to the CDDH, without further delay, the information requested with regard to implementation of the recommendations mentioned in the Declaration adopted at the 114th session. They had also invited the CDDH to make every effort, in its future progress reports on this issue, to provide clear and concise information on the state of implementation of the recommendations in each member state including any lacunae. The Secretariat also recalled that the CDDH had been asked to submit another progress report to the Deputies before the end of the year and that the CDDH would adopt this report at its meeting from 22-25 November 2005.
The Committee of experts for the improvement of procedures for the protection of human rights (DH-PR) was actively preparing the report; it was reviewing the current Rules of the Committee of Ministers concerning the application of Article 46 para. 2 of the ECHR, in order to reflect the changes made by Protocol No. 14 and it was also considering the implementation by the national authorities of the five recommendations referred to in the above-mentioned Declaration. As indicated in document CL-CEDH(2005)3, distributed at the CL-CEDH meeting held on 20 October 2005, only about half the member states had so far provided updated information on the implementation of the recommendations. Member states should accordingly be reminded about the need to submit the relevant information as soon as possible.
The Director suggested that the GR-H might postpone its substantive exchange of views on the issue of the implementation of the recommendations and the other measures mentioned in the Declaration to a forthcoming meeting, in as much as the first progress report adopted by the CDDH in June 2005 had been superseded by developments in the ongoing work. Once the next progress report had been transmitted by the CDDH, the GR-H could proceed to a substantive discussion in January.
The Secretariat (Secretary to the CDDH) explained that the DH-PR had appointed a Rapporteur for each recommendation, who would supervise the collection of information from member states. The list of rapporteurs is contained in the Appendix II to this synopsis. It had also decided to concentrate in a first stage on the two oldest recommendations mentioned in the Declaration of the 114th Session. Member states were therefore invited to submit the relevant information in respect of those two recommendations as a matter of priority.
The representative of one delegation raised the question at which meeting the GR-H would consider its method for reviewing the progress reports of the CDDH since the Deputies had themselves decided they would also undertake a review of the implementation of these texts. She recalled that in the CL-CEDH meeting doubts had been raised about the quality of the national information provided so far. She underlined the importance of a discussion in the GR-H as had been requested by the Deputies.
The Secretariat (Director) agreed that it would be useful to examine how the Deputies’ review should be carried out and presented to the 116th session together with the CDDH’s progress report. For example, this might take the form of a more political assessment based on the CDDH’s report.
The Group agreed to postpone the item until it was seized by the second Progress report, i.e. at its January meeting. It requested the Secretariat to make proposals for a methodology for examining the reports in due time for that meeting.
The Chairman underlined that delegations must now contact their authorities to make sure that the relevant information on the implementation of the recommendations be submitted to the CDDH without further delay. He recalled the priorities indicated by the Secretariat in that respect and referred to CL-CEDH(2005)3 which listed the responses received in respect of each Recommendation.
Framework Convention for the protection of national minorities – Presentation by the President of the Advisory Committee of the opinions concerning the implementation of the Framework Convention by:
05/16 the Czech Republic
The GR-H held an exchange of views with the Chairman of the Advisory Committee. The record of the debate appears in the Addendum to this synopsis. The Chairman noted that the GR-H would pursue its examination of these three opinions in due course, on the basis of draft resolutions to be prepared by the Secretariat in consultation with the delegations concerned.
05/39 European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) –
The GR-H took note of the name and CV of the person nominated by Cyprus to serve as a deputy member of ECRI. The Chairman noted that the Deputies would be invited to adopt the appropriate decision at a forthcoming meeting, without debate.
- Any other business
05/46 European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) - Election of a member of the CPT in respect of Greece
After a brief exchange of views, the Chairman noted that the GR-H agreed to transmit the list of candidates to the Deputies in the order drawn up by the Bureau of the Assembly.
- Date of the next meeting
The next GR-H meeting will take place on Tuesday 15 November 2005 at 3 p.m.
Proposals of the Russian Federation to amend
the draft Programme of activities for 2006 in the field of human rights
(CM(2005)133 Volume II, 21 September 2005)
1. To define more exactly Performance Indicators of Project 2004/DG2/24 "Coherence and synergies in the development of HR law and policy of different fora" (Expected Result 2, p.63).
2. To add to Project 2004/DG2/28 "Substantative legal analysis of HR issues and input in the development of CM policies on such issues", Expected Result 3, p.66 a sub-point "The evolution of the concept of HR will be examined".
3. To add a sub-point "A seminar on Education for HR and European standards in the field of democracy and rule of law will be held in 2006" to Project 2004/DG4/92 "Developing standards and materials for democratic citizenship and HR education", Expected Result 1, p.82.
4. To amend Project 2004/DG2/76 "Protecting and Promoting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities", Expected Result 2, Performance Indicators (p.96) as follows:
Activities organized on issues linked to the FCNM, including seminar "International legal instruments of protection and promotion of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities".
List of DH-PR Rapporteurs
Re-examination or reopening
Mr Andrian SCHEIDEGGER (Switzerland)
Mr Fredrik SUNDBERG
Publication and dissemination
Mr Roeland BÖCKER (Netherlands)
Mrs Sévérina SPASSOVA
Education and training
Mr Jan SOBCZAK (Poland)
Mr Alfonso DE SALAS
Verification of compatibility
Mr Hans-Jörg BEHRENS (Germany)
Mr Mikaël POUTIERS
Mrs Inga REINE (Latvia)
Mrs Gioia SCAPPUCCI
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue. Unless the Committee of Ministers decides otherwise, it will be declassified according to the rules set up in Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.